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Is the White House trying to influence Poland's elections, too?

Why is the White House breaking with U.S. protocols and inviting the Polish president just four days before Poland's elections?
Image: FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Trump and Poland's President Duda hold joint news conference at the White House in Washington
President Donald Trump and Poland's President Andrzej Duda hold a joint news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House on June 12, 2019.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters file

In early 2015, congressional Republicans thought they had a chance to derail their own country's Iran nuclear deal. To that end, GOP leaders formed a political partnership with a foreign leader -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- whom they invited to address a joint session of Congress. For Republicans, the goal was to use a foreign official to help lobby against a policy they opposed for reasons they struggled to understand.

But for Netanyahu, there was an additional incentive: the Israeli leader was in the midst of his own re-election campaign at the time, and the opportunity to speak in an august forum, and demonstrate his international influence, was expected to give him a boost.

Netanyahu was told that he would not, however, be welcome at the White House during his visit. Barack Obama said U.S. protocols had to be maintained.

"We have a practice of not meeting with leaders right before their elections," the Democratic president said during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He added that extending an invitation like this two weeks before a foreign election would obviously be inappropriate, regardless of an American president's fondness for a leader.

All of this came to mind reading this Politico report late yesterday.

Polish President Andrzej Duda has been invited to visit U.S. President Donald Trump on June 24, just four days before the Polish presidential election, the White House announced Wednesday. The two "will discuss further advancing our cooperation on defense, as well as trade, energy, and telecommunications security," said the White House statement.

The same article added that Duda "is in a tight reelection campaign and has been losing ground in recent opinion polls."

An Associated Press report also noted, "Since the June 24 visit was announced Wednesday, some in Poland have accused Trump of interfering in their election, noting that it is unheard-of for a U.S. leader to host a foreign politician so close to an election because it could be seen as an endorsement. 'President Trump is directly interfering in the election campaign in our country,' said Janusz Sibora, an expert on diplomacy. 'This is unacceptable. Good diplomatic custom does not allow for such visits four days before an election.'"

For those unfamiliar with Duda, the New York Times reported a few years ago, "Andrzej Duda was a relatively obscure member of the right-wing Law and Justice party when the leader of the party and the most powerful man in the country plucked him from the chorus line to become its candidate for president in 2015. For most of the party's first 20 months in power, he was a reliable proponent for the governing party's nationalist initiatives."

He is, in other words, exactly the kind of leader Trump is inclined to see as a like-minded ally -- though that's not much of an excuse.

If the White House has a defense for breaking with U.S. protocols, and inviting the Polish president just four days before Poland's elections, I'll be eager to hear it.